Michael Chapman, the master cinematographer and director who shot several Martin Scorsese classics including Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and such sci-fi/fantasy hits as The Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Lost Boys, died Sunday. He was 84.
News of his passing was disclosed by his wife, filmmaker Amy Holden Jones, on her Facebook page, though no word on cause of death was given.
“Michael Chapman ASC, love of my entire adult life, has passed. Until we meet again,” she wrote.
After making his mark as a cameraman on such iconic films as 1971’s Klute and 1972’s The Godfather among others, Chapman’s first job as Director of Photography was on the 1973 Jack Nicholson vehicle The Last Detail. But it was his collaboration with Scorsese on 1976’s dark, brooding Taxi Driver, starring Robert De Niro as the titular cabbie turned vigilante, that helped define the American New Wave era of auteur filmmaking in the seventies.
The duo followed that with 1978’s The Last Waltz, an acclaimed documentary capturing the last concert performance of The Band. But their crowning achievement was 1980’s Raging Bull, a docu-style tale of the rise and fall of legendary boxer Jake LaMotta with De Niro in the lead. Shot in ravishing black and white and heralded for its innovative, in-the-ring camerawork, the film has been hailed as one of the greatest movies of the eighties, if not of all time.
Over the next several decades, Chapman took on numerous genre assignments. Among his most notable cinematography credits were the late Joel Schumacher’s 1987’s vampire opus The Lost Boys; 1989’s Scrooged, a comedic spin on A Christmas Carol and Ghostbusters II, both starring Bill Murray; 1990’s Kindergarten Cop; 1993’s Harrison Ford blockbuster action thriller The Fugitive; 1996’s Space Jam; 2001’s Evolution; and 2006’s Hoot.
As a director, Chapman was known for 1983’s Tom Cruise-starrer All the Right Moves and 1986’s The Clan of the Cave Bear among other films.
Born Nov. 21, 1935 in New York City, Chapman grew up in Massachusetts before attending Columbia University. After college, he worked as a brakeman for a railroad company in the Midwest and briefly served in the Army. It wasn’t until his father-in-law, Oscar-nominated French DP Joe Brun, hired him as an assistant cameraman that Hollywood came calling.
Chapman’s other notable works as a cinematographer include Phillip Kaufman’s terrifying 1978 remake of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers; a pair of films with Steve Martin – Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) and The Man With Two Brains (1983); another Bill Murray comedy, Quick Change (1990); Doc Hollywood (1991); Rising Sun (1993) with Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes; Primal Fear (1996) with Richard Gere and Edward Norton; and Six Days Seven Nights (1998), again with Ford. He also shot several Michael Jackson videos, among them Bad, directed by Scorsese.
Chapman, who received the American Society of Cinematographers’ lifetime achievement award, retired in 2007 after making the children’s tale The Bridge to Terabithia.
He is survived by his wife, Amy Holden Jones, and his son Andrew Chapman.